I am so honored for the opportunity to interview internationally recognized award-winning painter and mother Katie m. Berggren. You may be familiar with her beautiful paintings or perhaps you are discovering her here for the first time. I am so drawn to the warmth, love and magic between mother and child that she beautifully captures in her paintings and I know you will be too!
Hi Katie! Can you please share a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in the country with my parents, two older brothers and my older sister. We loved being outside, but when forced to be in, we all four gravitated toward make-believe, drawing, reading and playing school and games. We had a crazy television signal so we didn’t hardly bother sitting and watching, except on Saturday mornings for cartoons. I feel that the lack of “plugging in” allowed us ample time to explore the gifts we had inside us. 30 years later, we are all artists of one kind or another. My father was an entrepreneur and he had us help him in the business. We learned a work ethic from him, that we all now employ. All four of us are self-employed.
I love people. I love to watch and learn. I love to see mothers with their children and study the relationships of those around me. I love watching documentaries about people and lifestyles. I like watching others.
I am blessed with a great husband and two creative and inspiring little boys. Their love is my muse.
How would you describe your paintings?
I would describe my paintings as moments scratched feverishly onto canvas or board with lots and lots of paint! Stories and figures and relationships that have come through because they need to be seen and shared. Stories that need to be told. I love tucking figures together, seeing how bodies can twirl, fold and interact. I see these paintings as messages. Messages for me, most definitely, to pay attention and be still. I’ve been so honored to discover that they go out into the world to act as messages for others as well.
In regard to the Commissioned Paintings, these pieces are created to capture a moment for a loving family. I allow myself to be inspired by their photos and their story, then let the paint flow for them.
How did you discover your love of painting?
I always wanted to be “an artist, a teacher, and a mother.” I tried many art materials during my years at community college, then decided to become a graphic designer and went off to University. A few years later, after doing computer design, digital art, and colored pencil illustrations for clients, I was reunited with the joy of paint. I was painting a mural on my baby boy’s wall ~ a whale family taken from a colored pencil illustration I’d completed ~ and I remember reaching up with the painted brush and with that first smear of paint across the bumpy wall, I was re-hooked. WHY? I asked myself, did I ever walk away from painting?! I got my supplies out of the closet and began painting the next day. Never looking back. Painting is my meditation, my education, my doorway to a quiet mind.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
At one point I went searching for motherhood artists who that I could say I was inspired by (because people have always asked!). I like Mary Cassatt. Her paintings of the life going on around us are charming, beautiful and fleshy. I also very much like Gustav Klimt’s color and pattern.
In truth, there is only one artist that awoke something within me when I was young ~ an urge to capture emotion and to paint life and the human condition in all its honest rawness. Her name is Kathe Kollwitz ~ a german sculptor, printmaker and painter creating emotional works during the early 1900s. I studied Kathe Kollwitz when I was in middle school and her work affected me in a way that I couldn’t have imagined until I started my own art exploration years later.
What mediums, materials and tools do you use in your paintings?
Acrylic paints became my medium right away because I had small children (they are still rather small!) because of the quickness of drying and the lack of solvents. I still love acrylics. I love being able to paint over a spot 12 times if I desire, knowing the paint will be dry, allowing me to retry. Acrylic paint is forgiving, creamy and dreamy, for me. I paint on canvas mostly now, but I also enjoy painting on board. With brushes! More recently I’ve been experimenting with adding bits of paper to my pieces, and hand-written text. I look forward to more of that.
What are some of your favorite works that you have created?
There are some paintings that I consider Signature pieces ~ pieces that seem to be markers along my path. Here they are:
Those are beautiful! From where do you draw your inspiration?
Often, inspiration first takes hold and makes its mark in the journal sketchbook. I try to keep it with me at all times. Inspiration is first born through words, phrases or sketches. Sometimes even one word will take me to the blank canvas and make itself known as an image that seems to come from nowhere. I am inspired by the people around me, families. I am inspired by nature and things frequently taken for granted. I am inspired by color and texture, architecture and natural shapes such as the bend of a branch on a tree, a bunch of berries, a leaf or a mushroom. In truth, I’m also inspired by a blank canvas! Such a thrill it is to approach that canvas, that is just waiting for a story.
Important to mention, also, is the inspiration drawn from the amazing community of mothers that I have discovered around me on Facebook and Twitter. I hear stories every day, and I see photos every day that touch my heart. I hear from mamas with such huge hearts and I just feel so much love for this virtual community.
How would you describe your creative process?
It is a very simple process! I look at the blank canvas. I sometimes have a sketch in the sketchbook that I glance at, or I have nothing but a word. Or I have nothing but an open mind. I take a brush, fill it with brown paint and start. I start my paintings in brown and white so that I may finesse the shape and form and purpose before adding color, clothing and hair. But most importantly, we must Start.
What do you want to capture in your work?
When I paint, I have in mind to capture a simple single moment, and to encourage myself and others to stop and see the moments that swirl around us on a daily basis. I have in mind to celebrate even the tiniest breath of peace that may come in a day of stress and chaos. I am also discovering that the paintings are telling me about internal peace, calm that we create inside ourselves, within a world where so many choose stress and business.
There is also an urge to honor a mama’s values for how she chooses to parent her child. To capture, celebrate and share the breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and cuddling relationship.
Could you tell us about the Mindful Mothering Project?
Certainly! In general, I have many ideas for paintings, but sometimes, I desire to be inspired by another mother! So I have been asking my online community to send me photos of their families that, to them, represent Mindful Mothering. It may be breastfeeding, baby-wearing, sleeping together, eating together, walking together, crying together, cuddling. The list is endless because each mama has her own feelings of what makes her mothering special. When I’m in the mood, I take a peek into the Mindful Mothering Project photo folder and see what image inspires me. I look quickly, just to get the feeling of the image. Then, the chosen image is created into an original painting, and the entire process of the piece is shared through photographs on the Facebook page. Upon completion, the mama whose photo inspired the painting gets a free 12×12” print of the finished piece (a $29 value)! There are more details here.
The documentary Who Does She Think She Is? chronicles the lives of artists and their challenges to pursue their passions while nurturing families. How do you balance “work” and motherhood?
I really enjoyed watching Who Does She Think She Is? and I can relate to many of the struggles these mothers face. None of us are automatically immune to the opinions of others. I started my art career when my boys were just babies, nursing while drawing, and sitting at the table while pregnant, doing art with my 1 year old son.
I did art when I had time, and because of a conviction to create, I made time almost every day. Before children, I did my drawings at a drafting table in my office. Once the children needed that room, my kitchen table was my ‘studio’ and I painted on small pieces of Masonite board. One night, while painting at the table, I realized that I had a fairly large laundry room just around the corner. It occurred to me that my art (and future career) deserved more space than dirty clothes! So I made myself a small studio in the laundry room. It worked great! I believe that we will do our work if we are called to do it, no matter where we find space. Waiting for a perfect ‘studio’ before beginning is resistance.
As my boys grew, I painted while they played, I painted while holding them on my hip, I painted with them. But mostly, I painted at night while the family slept. I did what I could do in the time I had and I didn’t beat myself up for much of anything (well, sometimes). I have a great memory of painting while talking to and swaying a sweet naked two year old on one hip.
Currently, my boys are in grade school, and I have an official studio/office space in our home. I have mapped out times for working and creating and squeeze in many other times as well. I paint while they play, I paint while holding them on my hip, and I paint with them. I do what I can do in the time I have and I still don’t beat myself up because I know that I am doing my best! At the same time, I am always working toward improving my painting skills, bettering my time management skills, further simplifying the schedule and home, and self-improvement as a mother and a human.
Your boys must love being around art all the time. Do they enjoy painting as well?
Oh yes! My six year old son sold his first painting this past summer, to someone he didn’t know. And that thrilled him. They both love to paint, they love to create, strategize and develop products and publications. They are tiny entrepreneurs and daddy and I are their biggest fans and biggest collectors. To watch those boys bloom is pure joy.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to follow their passion as a profession?
Stop what you are doing right now and do something towards your goal. Paint ten lines, write two paragraphs, sew for fifteen minutes. Then, do it again tomorrow, but for a little longer. Repeat.
Every day, move forward. My motto used to be “Make Progress Everyday”. And I did. Later, my motto became “Paint EVERY Day.” And I did. Now, one of my mottos is to “Work Smarter” and I have created tools to help me to do that. This whole thing is a process, and that has to be understood. You don’t wake up one day and discover you are where you want to be. But you can take a step forward every day. More advice, of course, is to not listen to anyone who questions your passion as a profession. Believe in yourself, carve out a place for your work, simplify your life so that you can make time for what you love. Simplify your schedule and your to-do list, and just do it. Junk the to-dos that don’t matter and donate the stuff that gets in your way. Start creating today!
Katie is generously offering Natureal Mom readers 15% off from September 19, 2012 to October 3, 2012. Katie’s work is rarely discounted so this is a perfect opportunity to own one of these truly special pieces!
Visit http://www.kmberggren.com/shop and enter promotional code: natureal